Construction Regulations, Quality Control Falling Through the Cracks

To the shock of many people a building around Summit in the Bole District has recently collapsed. It was a three-storey building, which had been under construction for almost a year. This is the second time in a year that a building has collapsed in the same area while under construction. Thankfully no one was hurt but the incident did raise alarm on the activities of the construction projects in town.

With the recent boom of construction in the country the collapse of a building without a natural disaster or other external force raises a red flag for authorities that are responsible for quality control, provision of safety and supervision. The reality that the quality control and the standards in the country are so low that a building that was being constructed can just crumble to the ground is a sign that there are bigger and deeper problems.

The quality of other construction projects are in question. Some new condominium sites that have been completed have cracks in the ceilings and some of the stairs are already disintegrating, which is uncommon for a newly completed building. There were reports that students had to evacuate the campus in a university in the south of Ethiopia due to the building showing cracks and being unstable.

Many other construction projects are being completed without quality enforcements. Sometimes incomplet buildings are used to give services. It is a common sight to see unfinished buildings with their ground floor rented out to banks or other businesses while the top floors are still under construction. This is a safety hazard for all those that are involved.

Owners of the building are becoming anxious to start getting returns from their huge investments on the building that they cannot even wait until it is completed to start renting. They even depend on that income to do the finishing work on the rest of the building. This is happening while there are rules and regulations against this type of practices.

The renters are also grasping the opportunity to be able to rent the place for a lower price-especially banks-since they always want to stay one step ahead of the competition by increasing their number of branches. But when disaster strikes and if individuals and workers get hurt, they will be at fault and have to take the wrath for their decision to rent in such places.

The government claims that construction permits are approved only after quality assurance is verified by the contractor, owner and consultant and then the process is closely followed by civil servants in the industry and in addition the project must undergo a soil test. But there are loopholes around this, and it has been manipulated to a point that buildings are collapsing in public view.

The owners, after obtaining a license for building and a work permit then abandon the consultants to save costs and try to construct the project by using low-cost unskilled workers and pinch pennies on the ‘Bill of Quantity’ when buying building materials such as cement, steel, and bricks. This results in the buildings being below standard and fragile. According to experts the reinforcing bars used in the building that collapsed were not fit to carry the weight of the building.

District administrations and code enforcement officers seem to turn a blind-eye to the situation. Some are looking for a pay day while others are not well informed or trained to do the job. They do not have the knowledge and capacity to control all these construction projects that are springing up everywhere.

When an owner misuses the license provided by constructing projects bigger than the permit allows or without following the procedure, the fine is a measly 3,000-4,000 Br. The fine is pocket change for someone that is constructing a building worth millions. This penalty does not really make an owner think twice about violating the law.

There are corrupt relationships between building owners and administrators which can lead to bribes and then unsafe building construction. Most building owners and contractors are able to escape the hold of regulations and quality controls by making under the table deals with those in charge. This compromises the standard and design of the buildings, which in the end results in huge losses for the owners and the economy.

There are even issues with the amount of money being spent on construction projects, sometimes the buildings are built with half the proposed project cost and with low quality while the contractors are pocketing the money which is usually in the millions. And sometimes buildings disappear because administrators have been able to forge the documentations of buildings that do not exist to get financing. This puts a big dent on the economy and growth of the country.

Obviously, there is a lack of supervision in the construction sector. Too many safety issues and regulations are being overlooked in the process. And many mistakes are falling through the cracks especially on the newer construction projects.

There are already bodies that are in charge. The Ministry of Construction is supposed to be enforcing the laws through follow-up and control teams. But it has not been effective. Safety standards and regulations have to be upheld by District administration offices and those responsible for overlooking the projects. This is a very concerning matter in light of the current collapse of buildings.

The safety and regulation laws that have been outlined needs to be enforced by competent and ethical workers at every level of the supervision process. There needs to a more serious punishment for those who breach the safety and regulations codes set by the government, and also the District offices should be held accountable if there is an issue with construction safety.

Published on Feb 25,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 877]



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